NABOKV-L post 0019204, Fri, 22 Jan 2010 20:34:00 -0200

Re: THOUGHT on Shade as poet

R.S.Gwynn [to JM:"Nabokov has described John Shade as " the greatest fictional poet," etc. Perhaps John Shade was a "mask," because at first Nabokov wasn't sure about the merits of "Pale Fire" as an independent poem. ] This raises a couple of interesting questions: (1) Was VN employing a similar strategy in TRLOSK by using a narrator who was admittedly no writer? Was this a clever way of "masking" VN's uncertainty about writing a novel in English for the first time? An uncertainly that is apparently laid to rest with that novel's final sentence. (2) One of the problems that besets any novelist who chooses to write about a poet is that he has either to provide examples of the poet's work or skirt the issue--put up or shut up. There may be other examples, but none comes to mind. ...

JM: You didn't include "The Gift" among your examples. In "SO" Nabokov informed us that he had lent a favorite poem of his own to its character (the one about swallows.) Equivocal or not, as it was the case of "the distinction bt. his scientific writings and his scientific fancies," here,in relation to his poetry, Nabokov reasserts his authorship - outside of the novel.
When you answered about "an uncertain[t]y that is apparently laid to rest...," only the inclusion of "apparently" left a margin for considering your questions as being more than rethorical ennumerations. The last lines you mention are:

"And then the masquerade draws to a close. The bald little prompter shuts his book, as the light fades gently. The end, the end. They all go back to their everyday life (and Clare goes back to her grave) - but the hero remains, for, try as I may, I cannot get out of my part: Sebastian's mask clings to my face, the likeness will not be washed off. I am Sebastian, or Sebastian is I, or perhaps we both are someone whom neither of us knows."

and in these we find hints of authorial interventions, similar to Bend Sinister's, and a whiff of "As You Like It" (the world as a stage).

So, the mystery related to the last sentence remains, for V. invites us to remember that "what you are told is really threefold: shaped by the teller, reshaped by the listener, concealed from both by the dead man of the tale."

For me, as stated before, Nabokov had great ambitions for Pale Fire, the poem, and was unsure of its reception (nothing less than "great" as a final verdict?). Although his style incessantly shifts from parody to self-parody, when his mystical and Romantic inclinations become the chief subjects of his mockery, he never gives up his attempt to convey otherwordly intimations - and these abound in PF,poem, in a serious vein.

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